Aston Villa make a fairly short trip to Derbyshire this weekend to take on a Derby County side who seemingly have their heart set on being record breakers this season, Sunderland’s lowest points total record that is!
A 4-0 thumping of Gary Megson’s Bolton Wanderers side re-installed some confidence lost when the Villans fell to pieces against a world-class Manchester United side.
An early match preview, without the sheep jokes or even a single sex scandal, from Vital Villa!
Doing things differently this week for a change, so we’ll start with the players quotes as Gabriel “tumble-tot” Agbonlahor admitted that he had not been concerned by his apparent lack of goals.
Gabby provided the cherry on top of the fine passing move cake against Bolton with his deft touch on the volley after good build up play from Young, Barry and even John Carew to score his first goal since the winner away to Wigan Athletic at their mud-pit stadium way back in late December.
Speaking to BBC Radio West Midlands, Agbonlahor was somewhat laid back about the fuss:
“It really hasn’t been on my mind. As long as the team scores it doesn’t matter who gets the goals,”
“But as a striker you want to be scoring, the confidence is key.”
Going on to show his modesty, he spoke about Barry’s stirling performance, and the obvious abundance of ‘talent’ in the Villa squad:
“I think he’s [Barry] been playing like that all season but people probably haven’t noticed. He showed what he’s really capable of, and he’s a big asset to us.
“You look at Gareth, Ashley Young and myself and there’s a lot of talented English players who are in the side.”
Meanwhile, the Messiah, Martin O’Neill wants to go all out in the quest for that UEFA Cup spot, given to 5th in the league, and told of the confidence re-installed (as I said, copycat!) as they thumped Bolton at Villa Park. Come on even Marlon scored!
Speaking to avfc.co.uk el Gaffer warbled:
‘If we’re going to still eke out European football this season and maybe even catch Everton, though that’s probably a fanciful notion, we would need to win every single game.
“If we could post that number of points [67 is the max available to Villa now] which would be phenomenal, we’d give ourselves a chance. We’ve got to finish ahead of the pack that’s around us to have any notion about qualifying for Europe – even if it’s through the Intertoto.
“Obviously the Bolton win has given us renewed hope, renewed vigour and determination. I suppose confidence has come back to the side.
“If we are going to do something between now and the end of the season, obviously there’s little room for error – there can be no slip-ups.”
Avoiding his personal life, and interestingly, a pre-season tour to Holland, we shall go onto talk about Derby boss Paul Jewell.
The former Wigan boss, now resigned to life in the Championship next season (although he sounded a defeatist from day 1 at Pride Park) is worried again, this time at losing one of his top performing players so far in on-loan Spurs midfielder HOssam Ghaly:
“I thought some of Hossam’s play against Everton was terrific,
“Yes, I guess if he keeps playing like he did against Fulham, Middlesbrough and Everton, there is a danger of other clubs making a move.”
The Derby boss has also been turning on a nautical theme as a potential way to improve morale as plans begin in earnest already (take note Martin) for a swift return to the Premier League. A number of players’ attitudes have been questioned as Derby looked evermore hopeless as they went from game to game, regularly losing.
“Some people have done themselves favours and others have done themselves harm since I came here,” Jewell told the club’s official website.
“Things will be different next season with regard to attitude and people’s outlook because if they don’t want to do what I want to do then they certainly won’t be part of the group.
“I have a lot of ideas I want to put in place and a lot of players I want to bring in. I want a happy ship.”
All aboard the happy ship…toot toot!
Relegated Rams Team News:
If there’s one thing that hapless could have done without, it’s experienced defensive minded midfielders going on the blink.
Jewell is sweating on the fitness of Mile Sterjovski, Dean Leacock and Darren Moore.
Alan Stubbs should be fit to play.
Player to watch: Who else but Savage?
As he reaches the twilight of his career, good old Gobby has been somewhat mellowing out somewhat, has become open and honest regarding his performances and even stopped to pick up two Derby fans who were waiting for their bus to the ground.
Villa fans of course remember him for being the spiteful little cretin that held the Birmingham City midfield together, and for Dion Dublin doing the good deed and taking a red for nutting the big girl!
Definitely one to watch.
AVFC Claret & Blues Team News:
As per usual, big John Carew hasn’t been training due to playing half-fit against Bolton.
Carew picked up a knock against Manchester United and wasn’t quite ready (by O’Neill’s admission) for the Bolton game but was determined to play. One hopes someday, we stop playing half-fit players, but until then, expect big JC to start.
Derby will come too early for Craig Gardner, who should be back in training by the middle of next week.
Wayne Routledge may feature more after making his first team debut last week (all 4 minutes of it) and playing 75 minutes in Villa’s reserve team victory on Wednesday evening.
Player to watch: Scott Carson (again)
Scott Carson is always one for entertainment; BBC Radio 5 suggested he was Bolton’s best chance at scoring last weekend!
With the news that Chelsea are weighing up a possible move for Sorensen as loan cover, you have to wonder where logic has gone.
This week’s musical interlude is dedicated to those poor souls that are Derby fans:
The referee for the game on Saturday will be a referee, they will be wearing a different coloured kit to everyone else and there’s a possibility that he may make some bad decisions.
In other words, I don’t know who it is yet!
My predictions always seem to be nowhere near the real result, so we’ll see if I can break that duck. Derby will fall to pieces this week and a Marlon Harewood double hat-trick will see Villa march onto a record busting 17-1 victory. The 1 coming from a Carson own goal.
Birmingham City visit Villa Park on Sunday 20th April 2008 for what will be an interesting game I’m sure.